we sinful women

A few days ago at the Pakistan Policy blog, Arif linked to the NYT documentary about Ziauddin Yusufzai and his daughter Malala in the days leading up to the January 15 school closure deadline in Swat. He commented:

Watch this video. It will be difficult to get Ziauddin Yusufzai and his daughter, Malala, out of your mind. Learning of their story inspires hope and produces anguish at the same time.
I hope the young, brave girl follows her father’s wishes and becomes a politician. Pakistan would be well-served by a Prime Minister Malala Yusufzai — not an underachieving brat of a discredited politician.

Kalsoom, at Changing Up Pakistan also linked to the video and transcribed the moving speech made by a schoolgirl to her classmates with her face veiled to hide her identity:

The title of my speech is the situation in Swat. Swat Valley: the paradise on earth, is in the northwest of Pakistan. Swat Valley: the land of waterfalls, lush green hills and other gifts bestowed upon it by nature. But my dear friends, today Swat has in the past few years become a heartland for Pakistan Islamic militancy. Today this idyllic valley of peace is burning. Why the peace of this valley destroyed? Why the peace and innocent people of the valley targeted? Why our future is targeted? …Who will solve our problems? Who will return our Valley to peace? I say nobody, no one. Our dreams are shattered…

Today, I watched this video of Kishwar Naheed reading her powerful poem “Hum Gunahgar auratein” and it made me think of those two girls:

Here is the English translation (courtesy of ana):

We Sinful Women

It is we sinful women
who are not awed by the grandeur of those who wear gowns

who don’t sell our lives
who don’t bow our heads
who don’t fold our hands together.

It is we sinful women
while those who sell the harvests of our bodies
become exalted
become distinguished
become the just princes of the material world.

It is we sinful women
who come out raising the banner of truth
up against barricades of lies on the highways
who find stories of persecution piled on each threshold
who find that tongues which could speak have been severed.

It is we sinful women.
Now, even if the night gives chase
these eyes shall not be put out.
For the wall which has been razed
don’t insist now on raising it again.

It is we sinful women
who are not awed by the grandeur of those who wear gowns

who don’t sell our bodies
who don’t bow our heads
who don’t fold our hands together.

Everywhere you look, doors are closing for Pakistani women. From this journal entry by a girl in Mingora about going to China Market to buy as much as she could because the stores are all closing down:

آج خواتین کے ساتھ چینہ مارکیٹ گئی تھی اور وہاں میں نے خوب شاپنگ کی کیونکہ وہاں ایک دوکاندار اپنی دوکان ختم کر رہا ہے۔ وہ کم قیمت پر چیزیں بیچ رہا ہے۔ چینہ مارکیٹ میں زیادہ تر دوکانیں اب بند ہوگئی ہیں۔

To these banners posted by Tazeen on her blog, in the most posh area of Karachi which say “An increase in employment quotas means an increase in deprived children – Women and Family Commission” — a not so subtle way of intimidating working women.

And yet the apologies and excuses and looking the other way continue.


3 responses to “we sinful women

  1. very powerful lines. Fahmida Riaz’s chador aur chardivari is also a must read. i wrote on it once on my blog.

    Shah Hussein should be revisited as well who wrote a kaafi

    “Buri aa’n Buri.n aa.n ve loka”

    yea ppl we r bad women—-

  2. Publius

    I had seen that video of the swat school girl on nyt when it came out and marvelled at her courage and emotion, especially in openly blaming Islamic militancy when the region was under their brutal and violent control.

    About those Karachi banners may I make a suggestion. Recently when some Indian women were attacked for patronizing pubs in mangalore they formed an in your face activist group on facebook called” the consortium of loose pub going women etc” or some such name. It tuned out to be extremely popular.

    I think that it is one of the best ways to assert your rights. To take up the worst label your enemy can throw at you to show your defiance.

    Maybe some Karachi women can do the same i.e Consortium of openly working women etc, if this Women and Family comission thing goes anywhere.

  3. AKS

    Excellent post.

    When you think about it Talibanisation isn’t going to be that bad for the average Pakistani man, one who doesn’t drink, sleep around or gamble; all he’ll have to do is raise his shalwar above his ankles and grow a beard.

    But it will be his wife who will be made to quit work and stay in doors, forever, and it’ll be his daughter who will be made to quit school, get married at puberty and stay in doors, forever.

    Talibanisation is manifestly a movement centered around degrading and suppressing women.

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